Chinese military to provide ‘aid and training assistance’ to Syrian government

Training also part of agreement reached on the weekend as Beijing gradually steps up its direct involvement in the Middle East

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2016, 6:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2016, 11:32pm

The Chinese military will provide aid and training to the Syrian government under a deal reached between a Beijing envoy and Syria’s defence minister in Damascus on Sunday.

It is another step in Beijing’s engagement in the Middle East after China named Xie Xiao­yan, former ambassador to Iran, as its special envoy to Syria in March.

The Chinese military delegation to Syria – headed by Rear Admiral Guan Youfei, director of international cooperation at the Central Military Commission – met Syrian Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Lieutenant General Fahd Jasim al-Furayj, Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

“They reached consensus on improving personnel training, and the Chinese military offering humanitarian aid to Syria,” the report said without elaborating.

Guan said the Chinese military was willing to continue exchanges and cooperation with the Syrian military.

Guan also met Lieutenant General Sergei Chvarkov, chief of Russia’s reconciliation centre in Syria, on Monday.

China’s appointment of Syria envoy to boost involvement in Middle East and protect regional interests, say analysts

China has sided with Russia on United Nations Security Council resolutions on Syria but Beijing has not been as directly involved in the conflict as Moscow, which has helped the Syrian government conduct air strikes on rebels.

Although no details were given, the military’s “humanitarian aid” was most likely to be medical supplies, observers said.

“China’s military involvement will still be low profile and limited,” Shanghai International Studies University Middle East affairs specialist Liu Zhongmin said.

“The goal is still to promote a political and peaceful settlement [in Syria].”

China’s military involvement will still be low profile and limited
Liu Zhongmin, Shanghai International Studies University

Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said he will invite representatives of the Syrian government and opposition for talks to promote a political settlement.

Since President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Middle East at the start of the year, China has stepped up its presence to promote stability in the region. This includes a trip by Xie to Syria in April to meet the government as well as some representatives of the opposition.

To become a so-called responsible world power, more proactive gestures are needed
Wang Jian, ChineseAcademy of Social Sciences

The battle for Syria’s second-biggest city, Aleppo, has entered a decisive phase and the Syrian government appears to have considerable advantages over the rebels. The overall international situation is also in Syria’s favour, with Turkey moving closer to Russia.

Wang Jian, a Middle East specialist at the ChineseAcademy of Social Sciences, said China’s help to Syria would give China a bigger say in both a solution to the Syrian issue and in the Middle East. “And that would be good for better protection of China’s interests in this region,” Wang said. “To become a so-called responsible world power, more proactive gestures are needed.”